Arab Women Filmmakers

In 2015, the MSFF launched its flagship Arab Women Filmmakers initiative at the Cannes Film Festival through a partnership with the pre-eminent UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT).

Together, we created the Hani Farsi Graduate Scholarship Fund, which provides full graduate scholarships for a UCLA TFT Master of Fine Arts in Directing to women from the Arab world. This flagship was designed to achieve greater representation of women, particularly Arab women, in the film industry, and to give a voice to their unique perspectives and experiences.

At the MSFF, we believe in the power of storytelling and its ability to bring human dimensions to polarised issues. We are proud to support the perspectives of Arab women, as they live at the intersection of multiple worlds and have important stories to tell.

The first three recipients – Amani Alsaied, Hanadi Elyan and Farah Shaer – were selected from an outstanding pool of applicants and began their M.F.A. at UCLA TFT in Fall 2015. Their studies and accomplishments have been extraordinary as they prepare to graduate in June 2019.

Hanadi Elyan, MSFF UCLA Scholar
Farah Shaer, MSFF UCLA Scholar


The impact of this scholarship has been profound. Beyond changing the lives of the three inaugural scholars themselves, a programme like this sends a message – to the UCLA students, teachers and faculty; to the wider film community; and to other philanthropists from different corners of the world. A message that says: in order to reach a world of true inclusion and prosperity, we must actively centre and celebrate the diverse voices that will lead us there.

“As an Arab Muslim woman, I’ve had countless encounters with people from the West and the East who actively or passively give me notes on my appearance, behavior, and way of living as a woman. These encounters gave birth to Watch Me: a short, experimental drama about a young woman who is so self-conscious that she lives her life as if she is performing for an audience.”
Amani Alsaied, MSFF UCLA Scholar, Year 2 Film Project

In just the first three years, this message has reverberated and transformed in ways we never anticipated. In the words of UCLA’s TFT Dean, Teri Schwartz, “the MSFF Scholarship Fund has become an exciting example for a new kind of visionary philanthropy and model on our campus – for what one can do with a groundbreaking idea that truly moves the dial in graduate education. The MSFF Scholarship Fund’s underlying vision has resonated deeply for enlightened donors from around the world. In the past two years alone, UCLA has received new full-ride scholarships that give voice to the unique perspectives of women from India and women of colour in the United States.”

MSFF UCLA Scholars Amani Alsaied, Hanadi Elyan and Farah Shaer

Future Vision

The success of the Arab Women Filmmakers programme – and these remarkable students – has hit an extraordinary nerve, and revealed the appetite our schools and industry have for genuine diversity.

The MSFF deeply values our partnership with UCLA and plans to continue this scholarship programme, among other activities, for years to come in order to ensure that the brilliance of Arab women filmmakers is shared with the world.

“The MSFF’s extraordinary vision for these full-ride scholarships underscores our shared belief that the world is a far deeper and richer place when women have the chance to tell their stories across some of the world’s most powerful delivery systems: film, television and new digital platforms.”
Teri Schwartz, Dean of UCLA TFT